Week Six: Professional Reviews

In the style of School Library Journal:

GIRARD, M-E. Girl Mans Up. 373p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2016. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-240417-6.

Gr 9 Up – Pen Oliviera is a 16-year-old Portuguese-Canadian struggling with society’s definition of womanhood. Her parents want her to wear her hair in a braid, dress in skirts and learn how to cook and clean for the sake of domesticity. Instead, she engages in willful acts of self-empowerment — she chops all of her hair off, steals her older brother’s clothing and plays video games with her friends all day. But these same friends mock her when she shows any sign of vulnerability. The further she distances herself from the gender binary, the more her loved ones try to reel her back in. In “manning up,” Pen learns to embrace who she is, not who others want her to be.

The characters are nuanced and authentic. As the protagonist, Pen is the most fleshed out, but readers also come to sympathize with her older brother, who helps her unpack their familial trauma. The first-person narrative is reflective without being too florid. Pen’s slow growth over the course of the novel will offer hope to readers who can relate to her experiences.

VERDICT Recommended for teens struggling with gender identity, sexuality within the scope of cultural expectations.—Damla Bek, Queens College

In the style of VOYA: 

5Q 4P J S

Quintero, Isabel. Gabi, a girl in pieces. Cinco Puntos Press, 2014. 284p. $17.95.

In this emotional roller coaster of a book, the reader is a guest in the mind of Gabi Hernandez; we peer into her life through pages from her diary. Gabi is a Mexican-American high school senior who is learning how to work through her problems creatively. She learns to love poetry and zine-making as a coping mechanism for a wide
range of issues, from her poor self-image to her repressed sexual desires to her tumultuous relationship with drug-addicted absentee father.

Gabi’s style as a writer is refreshing, funny and almost conversational — as if the reader is a close friend going through the motions with her. She falls somewhere between maintaining her relationships and maintaining her own sanity. By the time we say goodbye to Gabi at the end of the novel, she is stronger and more sure of her place in the world. This a wonderful addition to any young adult collection, particularly where there is a demand for culturally diverse reads.—Damla Bek.

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